FRISCO, Texas – After an examination on his neck injury, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch will have minor neck surgery and move to injured reserve, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said.
"We do anticipate a full recovery, but he's not going to be able to play at any point this season," Garrett said.
Vander Esch has missed the better part of seven games this season, including the last five games, due to neck issues. He played limited snaps against the Eagles on Oct. 20 and was inactive against the Giants on Nov. 4 following the bye week due to a neck stinger – the first game he has missed in his young NFL career.
The second-year linebacker returned against Minnesota and Detroit in mid-November. But the symptoms flared up on him again the week of the Patriots game and he has not played since.
A Pro Bowler last season, Vander Esch ranked second on the team with 87 tackles before sitting out this recent five-game stretch.
"Leighton did a really good job when he was healthy," Garrett said. "He's a good football player and I thought he continued to grow from his experience last year. He obviously did a lot of great things for us as a rookie and we feel like he got better.
"Unfortunately, he hasn't played as much as we would have liked and has been dealing with this neck injury. We're going to do the right thing by him. This is the right thing for his career and we do believe he'll be back healthy and ready to play again at a very high level."